Saturday, August 23, 2008


Have you ever noticed how love songs on the radio could just as easily be about God as about a lover (or maybe God is your lover)? They could also just as easily be about something or some place you love, instead of someone.

There's a song out recently by Chris Daughtry called "Home." I know you've probably heard it. The chorus goes like this:

"I'm going home,
Back to the place where I belong,
And where your love has always been enough for me.
I'm not running from.
No, I think you've got me all wrong.
I don't regret this life I chose for me.
But these places and these faces are getting old,
So I'm going home."

It is difficult to adequately explain to someone who has never had the experience what it was like for me to return to the African continent this month after FIVE years away. The last time I was in Africa, I was unmarried, was living in Minnesota, and hadn't yet graduated from seminary. My grandfather was still alive, and a life in Pennsylvania with my future husband was something I hadn't yet conceived of.

The last time I was in Africa (Cameroon) was five years ago, but the last time I was in Tanzania was NINE years ago. That was the first time I was ever in Africa. That was the trip that changed everything. At that time, I was still in college. My best friend Yulia, a summer fling, and a research project I was working on were the most important things in my life at that time.

Life has changed. Nine years ago I never would have imagined that today I would be in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, married to a Cameroonian, and working for one of the largest Lutheran churches east of the Mississippi River. Like the song says, I don't regret this life I chose for me (much of the time that's true, anyways).

Yet one thing has remained constant. A little less than three weeks ago, on August 7, when those airplane doors opened and I stepped out into the cool, evening Tanzanian breeze, I knew I had come home. The smell of wood smoke and sweat and history came into my nostrils and I kissed the ground. I had come home.

I was surprised this time around by how normal it all seemed. It seems like every other time I have ever been in Africa, there has been so much wonder associated with the experience. Naturally, every time you go somewhere new, there is discovery and wonder to be had. This time, the wonder was still there, but it was more an experience of experience. I had reactions like "I've been here before," and "That doesn't surprise me." Not that I knew everything or learned nothing... I was just surprised by how un-new everything seemed to me. For example:
  1. When we arrived in Moshi, Albert, the diocese driver from my trip nine years ago, was still working at the hostel where we stayed.
  2. On our way to Lushoto our car broke down and we had to disembark in the middle of nowhere while the driver and mechanic pieced things back together.
  3. The police stopped us for vehicle inspections in hope of some extra cash.
  4. The voices of children on the side of the road singing "Wazungu" ("white people" or "foreigners") were strangely reminiscent of my time as a "Nazara" in Cameroon.
  5. Even the school where we stayed in Mlalo, the students and the teachers, reminded me in so many ways of our dear College Protestant in Ngaoundere, Cameroon.
There were many differences, too, and I would be the last person on earth to tell you that all of Africa is the same or that all Africans are the same. That is just not true! But I was amazed by how at home I felt. In many ways, it was as though I had never left. It truly was a homecoming.

This whispers to me about my future. Our future--Pierre's and mine together. Although we have returned to Lansdale, Tanzania, Cameroon, and Africa are not our past. They are not just some places we visited that we will look back at in photographs and say, "What a nice time we had," never to return again. This is not a Roman Holiday. This is our life. God is calling us onward in a direction that is ultimately pointing back across the ocean. Eventually, we hope to be home for good.

P.S. You can view photos from my trip to Tanzania by clicking here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

People Who Get It

Can I just say something?

I spent last week with an amazing bunch of young adults. Four of them were from my congregation, and six of them were from a Methodist church in Hamilton, New Jersey. We spent the week in Wyoming County, West Virginia, serving with Appalachia Service Project (ASP). We didn't all go together. Heck, we didn't even know each other before last week! But when we were placed at the same work site together, relationships were formed and magic happened.

I just want to say how easy it is sometimes to get frustrated with people who don't get it. Many Christians don't understand what it means to be Christian. They don't understand that the call to Christian life is the call to service. Day after day I constantly wonder how I am supposed to empower people to live out their Christian call to service when they think service is synonymous with "serve us."

I was really proud to be a part of our little band of four who embarked on a journey to serve in West Virginia last week. And, I was really honored to get to know the six from New Jersey. I felt like I had come home... I was really in my element, in service, hands (and just about everything else) dirty. And, I was surrounded by people who get it. Granted, we all had our moments of insanity. But I know that at the end of the day, these were ten devoted people who understand the meaning of Christian service. I needed to be reminded of what that feels like.

Thank you.